Orange Order dismisses SF’s ‘loyalist link’ claim

THE Orange Order has strongly refuted claims made by a senior republican that the institution has links with loyalist paramilitaries.

In a statement yesterday, Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly challenged grand master Edward Stevenson to be honest over the relationship between the institution and illegal organisations, such as the UVF.

However, the order dismissed the former junior minister’s comments.

Mr Kelly said: “Attempts by the Orange Order to rebrand itself and its parades will come to nothing until Mr Stevenson and his colleagues confront the elephant in the room – their very clear and direct links to active unionist paramilitaries and the UVF in particular.”

The North Belfast representative, who received two life sentences for bombing the Old Bailey and Scotland Yard in the early 1970s, claimed one Belfast lodge displays the names of six loyalists killed during the Troubles.

He added: “The UVF organise and participate in a number of Orange parades in Belfast. It is no coincidence that these are amongst the most contentious of all Orange marches.”

When asked by the News Letter to respond to Mr Kelly’s statement, an Orange spokesman said: “The Orange Order has consistently condemned all terrorist violence, whether it is from loyalists or Mr Kelly’s friends in the IRA.”